Ham on Linux – IC-706MkIIG Rig Control

Working on this page for a good friend who has been more than just generous with her time, and friendship, as I’ve fumbled through life as a brand-new General, then Amateur Extra, and Volunteer Examiner since last September or so…  She, and her husband, are Amateur Extras too and inspired me to serve as a Volunteer Examiner here in our local area. I know a bit about computers and this is my way of returning some of the past favors – believe me this IS worth my time. 🙂

I am drawing heavily on my previous post on the IC-718 radio, this copy will be tailored to the incredibly popular Icom IC-706MkIIG radio.  Both radios are similar in function and setup, so it should be a fairly easy task.  Our IC-718 is currently working *very* happily being controlled by CQRLOG and I anticipate very little difficulty translating that success over to her 706. 🙂

Unless you already have the appropriate cable for the IC-706MkIIG, you will need to acquire one.  If you are like me and have moved to newer laptop computers, you probably don’t have a true “Comm Port” on your computer and will need to pick up an appropriate FTDI USB-serial cable.  (I am continuing to use another Ham operator’s eBay Store – BlueMax49ers – one whom I’ve had excellent results with in the past, solely as a customer/consumer – he hasn’t failed me yet).

That cable will permit you to establish CAT control over your radio – but it will not permit you to do those fancy digital modes of operation that are so popular these days. To do so will require another cable and box, (something like the Tigertronics Signalink USB-13I if it has the 13 pin Accessory connector on the back). None of that is required if you are sticking with regular voice/CW/RTTY modes, just CAT control is sufficient.


Must start with the rig itself

Before we get started, lets pay attention to the rig itself.  We need to access the IC-706MkIIG initial set mode via the Menu button/switch – (not certain, don’t own this rig, but “I think” you press and hold Menu to switch between quick set mode and initial set mode).  Once in the initial set mode menus – use the “Up | Down” buttons to navigate through the menu, and turn the main knob to change a setting on the menu.  I most strongly recommend you do *NOT* change anything, except those listed below, at this point – just use the “Up | Down” buttons to find the:

  • 34 CI-V ADDRES – (CI-V address) the default address should be “4E” (if it is not, there may be reason for that – but the default load of rigctld, (the rig control daemon) will expect to find this radio with an address of “4E”.
  • 35 CI-V BAUD – (CI-V data rate) set to “Auto” (If that doesn’t work, we will try 19200).
  • 36 CI-V TRN – (CI-V transceive) set to “off“.
  • 37 CI-V 731 – (CI-V operating frequency data length) set to “off“. (Only used when rig connected to IC-735 unit)

You should now be able to turn the radio off and those settings will be remembered by your rig.

Have to admit, I used a downloaded copy of the “Instruction Manual” for this rig to determine the above menu items.  I have no actual experience operating the IC-706MkIIG, but will have soon.


Now lets get started on the software

The first step is to assure your Linux account has access to the serial ports:

Even if you are using an FTDI USB-serial cable purchased for the purpose – you still have to be in the appropriate Linux “group”…

Add your user account name to the “dialout” group via Menu | Administration | Users and groups

Click on your account, then in the right click on the groups you are currently a member of – a list will pop-up and all you have to do is put a check mark next to the “dialout” group


Why the group name “dialout”? Every file in Linux has a security setting for access in terms of read/write/execute “permissions”. You are either the owner, member of a group, or “other” – the owner of most things in the system is “root”, but you should never use root as your normal user within Linux to avoid accidents and security problems.  So – the next best thing is to be member of the group that has rights on the item you want to use. For instance, in this case we want to access/control the ttyUSBx port. (Probably ttyUSB0, [“zero”], but it may be 1, 2 or 3 depending upon your computer/peripherals).

Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, most of us hooked up a telephone modem, which is a serial device, so they named the group given control over serial devices “dialout”.  Know it seems a weird name today, but that is how it came about and it still is in use.  Adding your account to Group dialout will give you the desired rights/control over serial communication on Linux, including ttyUSBx (usually ttyUSB0).


Second Step – let’s download and install those “other” packages for associated software programs you may eventually want to use in conjunction with CQRLOG and get them set up to automatically get updated with system updates by enabling their PPA repositories where we can, that way they will be “ready” when you are.

Use Administration | Synaptic Package Manager to install the following:

In filter type xplanet and then select the xplanet and xplanet-images (Mark for install) go ahead and Apply (install).. Then delete the xplanet from filter box.

In left column click on Ham Radio Universe and mark the following for installation:

Chirp (if not already installed – very handy if you have a uhf/vhf radio – not applicable to CQRLOG)
FLdigi (if not already installed)
TrustedQSL (need this if you use Logbook of the World)
xdx

Go ahead and “Apply”/install the packages then close Synaptic Package Manager

Note: We skipped over wsjt – will get that later by other means rather than old package

Open a terminal – we will be installing PPA Updates one line at a time Terminal;

sudo rm -f /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ubuntu-hams-ppa-­*
# type your password when prompted

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-hams-updates/ppa
# press ENTER when prompted

sudo apt-get update
# wait for the “$” prompt to reappear

That’s it, now Linux Mint will keep all your Ham Apps up to date automatically. You can refresh updates, and all the latest updates will be installed.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kamalmostafa/hamlib
# press ENTER when prompted

sudo apt-get update
# wait for the “$” prompt to reappear

———-

Now for WSJTX: The version in the software center is way out of date, so you will want to add the PPA for this as well, If you already installed, no worry, this will update that version. Open termial, copy and paste: again one line at a time and hit enter, follow prompts.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ki7mt/wsjtx

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install wsjtx

Now you will want to install the Encoder:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ki7mt/kvasd-installer

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install kvasd-installer

TO RUN
– Open A terminal and type: kvasd-installer
– Then, select Install decoder from the menu.

If you have difficulty with WJSTx, as far as selecting the sound card, you will need to install this as well. Open Terminal:

sudo apt-get install libqt5multimediawidgets5 libqt5multimedia5-plugins
libqt5multimedia5

Note copied from K8WDX blog: Then set it up, and you should be good to go. more info on future releases can be found here: https://launchpad.net/~ki7mt I strongly suggest going to this site and reading through it, there are a couple of things to do to get the latest updates as well and info about the future of WJSTX. I just like to wait until the versions are out of the development stage before I take the plunge.


Third Step – if you haven’t already done so, let’s install the latest CQRLOG package:

A *very* good installation can be had with a single command in terminal mode:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ok2cqr/ppa;sudo apt-get update;sudo apt-get install cqrlog

That command, (described here for version 2.0.1-1), will first, add the ppa repository to your linux system’s list of authorized spots to check for updates, then update the system list itself, and finally install the latest version found in that repository.

OK, you can finally close terminal – open Update Manager, click on Refresh, then install any new packages it found. Because you added the PPAs above, Update Manager will check and install updates to your Ham programs.


Its finally time to run CQRLOG!  (You will find it in your menu system, I recommend right-clicking on that menu item and pinning it to your panel).  When the program opens you will see the “Database Connection” window, which contains a default log file #1 entry.  Highlight that and click “Open”.  The system “should” ask you to agree to download/install a couple of necessary databases – click Yes for each of them.  (It will check for updates each time you open the program).  The Database Connection window will close and the “New QSO” window will open.

Configuring CQRLOG

In New QSO click on File | Preferences which will open the Preferences window to start your configuration of CQRLOG.  Down the left side of Preferences is a vertical column of tabs which lead to pages of settings.  I won’t cover all of them but here are my current recommendations for some of the more important stuff – you will have to play with them to suit your own desires – but pay particular attention to the TRX control stuff below:

Program tab:

  • Select “Show statistics in” MHz if it isn’t already checked
  • Select “Check for newer version of dxcc tables after program startup”
  • Select “Check for newer version of qsl managers database after program startup”
  • Select “Show distance in miles”
  • Select “get UTC time from computer time
  • Set “Grayline” to -1.25 (this setting worked for me on 05/24/2016)

Station tab:

  • Set “Call” to your FCC approved Call Sign
  • Set “Name” normally use your first name but…
  • Set “QTH” to your home area, (i.e. San Diego County, CA)
  • Set “Loc” to your Grid Square Locator (Hint – go here and type in your zip code if unsure) – This is a critical entry for the system to work correctly, make certain you have it right.

New QSO tab: (These are in addition to the defaults – some may now be new defaults in the latest version)

  • For now, I left the “Default values” at the top alone, including “Comment for QSO”
  • Also left “Enable auto mark QSO QSL_S field” as marked but with no value
  • Set “Use spacebar to move between fields”
  • Set “Skip over mode and frequency when radio is connected”
  • Set “Enable autosearch on HamQTH.com/QRZ.com”
  • Set “If ‘QSL via’ field contains other than a call sign, move to ‘Comment to QSO’ field”
  • Set “Show recent QSO records for last” to 7 days (rather than 5)
  • Set “In previous QSO list show QSO with call/p, call/m, W6/call etc.”
  • Set “Always overwrite info from previous QSO with callbook data”
  • Set “Always overwrite only CQ, ITU zones, County and US state”
  • Set “Capitalise first letter in QTH field (yeah I know how to spell capitalize, but they are from Europe).

Visible Columns tab:

  • Set “Date”
  • Set “Time on”
  • Set “CallSign” and “IOTA”
  • Set “Mode”
  • Set “Freq” and “QSL sent date”
  • Set “RST sent”
  • Set “RST Received” and DXCC
  • Set “Name” and “Comment to QSO”
  • Set “QTH” and “WAZ”
  • Set “QSL sent”
  • Set “QSL received”, “State”, and “Received QSL, LoTW, eQSL”
  • Set “Country Name”

Bands tab:

  • Set each band you plan to use your rig on

TRX control tab:  (many of these will now be default settings)

  • Set “Path to rigctl binary” to /usr/bin/rigctld
  • Set “Radio one Desc.” to IC-706MkIIG
  • Set “Host” to localhost
  • Set “Rig Model” to 311 Icom IC-706MkIIG (using the drop-down menu)
  • Set “Device” to /dev/ttyUSB0 (that last character is a zero – need to verify yours may be 1, 2, 3, etc.)
  • Set “Poll Rate” to 500
  • Set “Port Number” to 4532
  • Click to “X” Run rigctld when program starts
  • For now, leave the rest at their default settings

You should not need any additional arguments added for rigctld. CQRLOG will start it with the rig model number – it looks like “rigctld -m 311”, (mine is -m 313 for my IC-718), and that automatically sets it up for that specific radio, ready to communicate with CQRLOG via the Hamlib library, in other words “pure magic”. 🙂

ROT control tab:

  • ***To be determined at a later date – I do not currently own a rotor nor directional antenna

Modes tab:

  • You *must* set all modes to a value of Zero for your Icom radio.
  • I would have left the defaults for a rig other than Icom – (note on Icom radios for rig control the CQRLOG FAQ says to set them all to zero – I have confirmed my IC-718 will not accept Bandwidth changes via CAT cable)

 

QTH profiles tab:

  • ***To be determined at a later date

Export tab:

  • I set each and every item on this page – if I am “exporting” my log, I want *everything*.

DXCluster tab:

  • Colors are purely a personal decision – the darker colors generally work better for my eyes, but I wound up selecting Red, Lime, Blue and Navy respectively
  • Set “Show only spots” to those freqs/bands you are interested in – mine currently spans from 1.8 MHz to 28 MHz
  • Set “Show country name in the DX cluster spot”
  • Set “Connect to DX cluster after program startup”

Fonts tab:

  • I left this at defaults, (for now)

WAZ, ITU zones tab:

  • Colors are purely a personal decision – I am currently using Red, Red, Blue, Blue, and Fuchsia, Fuchsia
  • Set “Show info” for both WAZ and ITU

IOTA tab:

  • I chose to set “New IOTA” to Red and QSL needed for IOTA to Blue
  • Set “Show info”

Membership tab:

  • ***I haven’t set this up yet – not currently a member of anything associated with this

Bandmap Tab:

  • Set “Use the same color as the spot
  • Set “Ignore DX spots with freq equals to the start of the band (21.000, 14.000 etc., usually notes)”
  • ***I will need to revisit this one later on

xplanet support tab:

  • Set “Path for the xplanet” to /usr/bin/xplanet
  • I set “‘Window size” to 340 x 340 for now, will revisit later
  • Set “Show stations from” bandmap
  • Set “Projection” to azimuthal without background
  • Set “Use this xplanet font color” my selection was “White” by default, works well.

Zip code tracking tab:

  • ***I left at default settings for now

LoTW/eQSL support tab:

  • To use this tab, you will need an account with LoTW, (gained through TrustedQSL program), and register for an account on the eQSL web site.  I have done so, but with LoTW – now waiting on a snail-mail card from ARRL telling me how to proceed.  Note that part of this is to have a digital “certificate” file on your system to prove its actually “you” and your system doing the uploads to LoTW
  • Set “Include LoTW and eQSL confirmed countries in DXCC statistic”
  • Set “Use LoTW and eQSL confirmed countries for New country or New band etc. info”
  • Set “Show info in New QSO window if station uses LoTW/eQSL
  • Set “Use this color as a background in DX cluster and band map for stations using LoTW” (I chose Money Green)
  • Set “Use this color as a background in DX cluster and band map for stations using eQSL” (I chose Sky Blue)
  • Set “Upload to eQSL also data in COMMENT field”

CW interface tab:

  • ***Left at defaults until I discuss this with a very experienced Elmer

fldigi/wsjt interface tab:

  • ***Left at defaults until I have time to research this one

Auto backup tab:  I consider this one to be IMPORTANT!

  • Set “Enable autobackup after program ends
  • Set “Save backup to:” using the browse button – mine worked out to be /home/dave/.config/cqrlog/database/
  • Set “Backup file” by selecting “callsign, date and time (yourcall_yyyy-mm-dd_hh-mm-ss.adi)
  • Set “Compress backup with tar.gz

External viewers tab:

  • I left this one at defaults, it will probably stay that way for now

Callbook support tab:

  • Set Callbook search to either your HamQTH account or QRZ account.  Ham QTH is free – there is a minimal annual fee for QRZ – I elected to go with HamQTH for now – entering my User name and Password for that account in this tab

RBN support tab:

  • Left “Server:” at the default telnet address and port – telnet.reversebeacon.net:7000 – for now, (but know my friend will want to change it to his favorite)
  • Set “Login:” to your own callsign
  • For now, I also set “Watch for:” to my own callsign
  • Colors being subjective, I am using White, Purple, Maroon and Red in that order from the top down, (pretty sure these are now default colors)
  • Set “Delete old information after” 180 seconds, (I’m getting older, the default 60 seconds was too fast)

Online log upload tab:

  • Set “Enable upload to HamQTH” (if you have an account there)
  • Set in your Username and Password for HamQTH
  • I elected to “Set this” Blue “color to show information in status upload windowI left Clublog blank – not a member
  • Set “Use this” Red “color to show information in status upload window” in case I use Clublog in future
  • Left HRDLog.net entries blank
  • Set “Use this” Purple “color to show information in status upload window” in case I use HRDLog in future

Propagation tab:

  • Set “Show propagation as image
  • I was not happy with the tiny default display, so changed “Download data from:” to http://www.hamqsl.com/solar101pic.php
  • Set “Show A, K, SSN, FOF2 etc.”
  • Set “Show calculated prediction for HF bands”
  • Set “Show calculated prediction for VHF bands if you are interested

It should be as easy as that to get this going.

I spent over a week, troubleshooting a situation where some other (unknown) process, unrelated to CQRLOG, was periodically interfering with comms on device ttyUSB0, so I simply did a completely fresh install of Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon, then ran through the procedures above. CQRLOG has been running quite well and controlling our IC-718 rig very happily ever since. On a relatively “clean” Linux Mint installation, it should go well indeed – and you should be able to simply cut commands out of this document and past them into your linux terminal session to make it go *very* rapidly.

Its pretty easy to feel the installation for the Icom IC-706MkIIG should go a lot easier with the above procedure! 🙂

When I re-edit this post next time, will try to include the IC-706MkIIG specific settings that have to be made at the rig itself.


REFERENCE LINKS:

CQRLOG

Ham Radio Control Libraries

USB Serial Converter support

Linux Ham apps, install | K8WDX

CQRLOG configure <–YouTube video on a previous version of CQRLOG also by K8WDX

Ham on Linux – FT-950 Rig Control

Working on this page for a good friend who has been generous with his time, etc., as I’ve fumbled through life as a brand-new General, then Amateur Extra, and Volunteer Examiner since last September or so…  I know a bit about computers and he knows a *ton* about radio – believe me its worth my time. 🙂

I am drawing heavily on my previous post on the IC-718 radio, this copy will be tailored to the excellent Yeasu FT-950 radio.

Unless you already have the appropriate cable for the FT-950, you will need to acquire one.  If you are like me and have moved to newer laptop computers, you probably don’t have a true “Comm Port” on your computer and will need to pick up an appropriate FTDI USB-serial cable.  (I am continuing to use another Ham operator’s eBay Store – BlueMax49ers – one whom I’ve had excellent results with in the past, solely as a customer/consumer – he hasn’t failed me yet).


Before we get started, lets have a look at the rig

I took a very hard look and a downloaded copy of the FT-950 Operating Manual – specifically for CAT-related items in the “Menu Mode”.  Found the following to be on target:

Menu Mode:

Press the “MENU” button momentarily, to engage the Menu Mode.
Display will show the Menu Number, Menu Group Name, and Menu Item.
Press the “SELECT” knob momentarily to toggle the display between “Menu Number & Menu Group Name” and “Menu Item”. The Multi-Display Window shows the current setting of the currently selected Menu item.
Rotate the “SELECT” knob to select the menu item you wish to modify.
Rotate the “CLAR/VFO-B” knob to chnge the current setting of the selected Menu item.
Press the “CLEAR” button (located at the upper right of the “SELECT” knob momentarily to reset the selected Menu item to factory default value.

When you have finished making your adjustments, press and hold “MENU” button for one second to save the new setting and exit to normal operation. If you only momentarily press the “MENU” button, the new settings will NOT be retained.

Then I found the following CAT items:

GENERAL GROUP:

O26 GENE CAT BPS – Default = 4800 bps (CAT data rate in baud) believe this should be set to 38400 for operation with a FTDI USB-serial Cable, but the default would probably be OK for a standard Comm port/cable
027 GENE CAT TOT – default = 10 msec TOT=time out timer
028 GENE CAT RTS – Default = On

SO – I suspect the only default menu item parameter that would need adjustment from the default setting would be the baud rate if you are using an FTDI USB-serial cable. Remember, to press and hold “MENU” button for one second after you have set the parameter to assure you actually SAVE the new setting.

Just a note, for CAT operation, I suspect you will want to have the radio in VFO mode rather than Memory… When it doubt, go for VFO.


The first step is to assure your Linux account has access to the serial ports:

Even if you are using an FTDI USB-serial cable purchased for the purpose – you still have to be in the appropriate Linux “group”…

Added my account name to the “dialout” group via Menu | Administration | Users and groups

Click on your account, then in the right click on the groups you are currently a member of – a list will pop-up and all you have to do is put a check mark next to the “dialout” group


Why the group name “dialout”? Every file in linux has a security setting for access in terms of read/write/execute “permissions”. You are either the owner, member of a group, or “other” – the owner of most things in the system is “root”, but you should never use root as your normal user within linux to avoid accidents and security problems.  So – the next best thing is to be member of the group that has rights on the item you want to use. For instance, in this case we want to access/control the ttyUSBx port. (Probably ttyUSB0, [“zero”], but it may be 1, 2 or 3 depending upon your computer/peripherals).

Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, most of us hooked up a telephone modem, which is a serial device, so they named the group given control over serial devices “dialout”.  Know it seems a weird name today, but that is how it came about and it still is in use.  Adding your account to Group dialout will give you the desired rights/control over serial communication on Linux, including ttyUSBx (usually ttyUSB0).


Second Step – let’s download and install those “other” packages for associated software programs you may eventually want to use in conjunction with CQRLOG and get them set up to automatically get updated with system updates by enabling their PPA repositories where we can, that way they will be “ready” when you are.

Use Administration | Synaptic Package Manager to install the following:

In filter type xplanet and then select the xplanet and xplanet-images (Mark for install) go ahead and Apply (install).. Then delete the xplanet from filter box.

In left column click on Ham Radio Universe and mark the following for installation:

Chirp (if not already installed – very handy if you have a uhf/vhf radio – not applicable to CQRLOG)
FLdigi (if not already installed)
TrustedQSL (need this if you use Logbook of the World)
xdx

Go ahead and “Apply”/install the packages then close Synaptic Package Manager

Note: We skipped over wsjt – will get that later by other means rather than old package

Open a terminal – we will be installing PPA Updates one line at a time Terminal;

sudo rm -f /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ubuntu-hams-ppa-­*
# type your password when prompted

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-hams-updates/ppa
# press ENTER when prompted

sudo apt-get update
# wait for the “$” prompt to reappear

That’s it, now Linux Mint will keep all your Ham Apps up to date automatically. You can refresh updates, and all the latest updates will be installed.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kamalmostafa/hamlib
# press ENTER when prompted

sudo apt-get update
# wait for the “$” prompt to reappear

———-

Now for WSJTX: The version in the software center is way out of date, so you will want to add the PPA for this as well, If you already installed, no worry, this will update that version. Open termial, copy and paste: again one line at a time and hit enter, follow prompts.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ki7mt/wsjtx

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install wsjtx

Now you will want to install the Encoder:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ki7mt/kvasd-installer

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install kvasd-installer

TO RUN
– Open A terminal and type: kvasd-installer
– Then, select Install decoder from the menu.

If you have difficulty with WJSTx, as far as selecting the sound card, you will need to install this as well. Open Terminal:

sudo apt-get install libqt5multimediawidgets5 libqt5multimedia5-plugins
libqt5multimedia5

Note copied from K8WDX blog: Then set it up, and you should be good to go. more info on future releases can be found here: https://launchpad.net/~ki7mt I strongly suggest going to this site and reading through it, there are a couple of things to do to get the latest updates as well and info about the future of WJSTX. I just like to wait until the versions are out of the development stage before I take the plunge.


Third Step – if you haven’t already done so, let’s install the latest CQRLOG package:

A *very* good installation can be had with a single command in terminal mode:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ok2cqr/ppa;sudo apt-get update;sudo apt-get install cqrlog

That command, (described here for version 2.0.1-1), will first, add the ppa repository to your linux system’s list of authorized spots to check for updates, then update the system list itself, and finally install the latest version found in that repository.

OK, you can finally close terminal – open Update Manager, click on Refresh, then install any new packages it found. Because you added the PPAs above, Update Manager will check and install updates to your Ham programs.


Its finally time to run CQRLOG!  (You will find it in your menu system, I recommend right-clicking on that menu item and pinning it to your panel).  When the program opens you will see the “Database Connection” window, which contains a default log file #1 entry.  Highlight that and click “Open”.  The system “should” ask you to agree to download/install a couple of necessary databases – click Yes for each of them.  (It will check for updates each time you open the program).  The Database Connection window will close and the “New QSO” window will open.

Configuring CQRLOG

In New QSO click on File | Preferences which will open the Preferences window to start your configuration of CQRLOG.  Down the left side of Preferences is a vertical column of tabs which lead to pages of settings.  I won’t cover all of them but here are my current recommendations for some of the more important stuff – you will have to play with them to suit your own desires – but pay particular attention to the TRX control stuff below:

Program tab:

  • Select “Show statistics in” MHz if it isn’t already checked
  • Select “Check for newer version of dxcc tables after program startup”
  • Select “Check for newer version of qsl managers database after program startup”
  • Select “Show distance in miles”
  • Select “get UTC time from computer time
  • Set “Grayline” to -1.25 (this setting worked for me on 05/24/2016)

Station tab:

  • Set “Call” to your FCC approved Call Sign
  • Set “Name” normally use your first name but…
  • Set “QTH” to your home area, (i.e. San Diego County, CA)
  • Set “Loc” to your Grid Square Locator (Hint – go here and type in your zip code if unsure) – This is a critical entry for the system to work correctly, make certain you have it right.

New QSO tab: (These are in addition to the defaults – some may now be new defaults in the latest version)

  • For now, I left the “Default values” at the top alone, including “Comment for QSO”
  • Also left “Enable auto mark QSO QSL_S field” as marked but with no value
  • Set “Use spacebar to move between fields”
  • Set “Skip over mode and frequency when radio is connected”
  • Set “Enable autosearch on HamQTH.com/QRZ.com”
  • Set “If ‘QSL via’ field contains other than a call sign, move to ‘Comment to QSO’ field”
  • Set “Show recent QSO records for last” to 7 days (rather than 5)
  • Set “In previous QSO list show QSO with call/p, call/m, W6/call etc.”
  • Set “Always overwrite info from previous QSO with callbook data”
  • Set “Always overwrite only CQ, ITU zones, County and US state”
  • Set “Capitalise first letter in QTH field (yeah I know how to spell capitalize, but they are from Europe).

 

Visible Columns tab:

  • Set “Date”
  • Set “Time on”
  • Set “CallSign” and “IOTA”
  • Set “Mode”
  • Set “Freq” and “QSL sent date”
  • Set “RST sent”
  • Set “RST Received” and DXCC
  • Set “Name” and “Comment to QSO”
  • Set “QTH” and “WAZ”
  • Set “QSL sent”
  • Set “QSL received”, “State”, and “Received QSL, LoTW, eQSL”
  • Set “Country Name”

 

Bands tab:

  • Set each band you plan to use your rig on

TRX control tab:

  • Set “Path to rigctl binary” to /usr/bin/rigctld
  • Set “Radio one Desc.” to FT-950
  • Set “Host” to localhost
  • Set “Rig Model” to 128 Yaesu FT-950 (using the drop-down menu)
  • Set “Device” to /dev/ttyUSB0 (that last character is a zero – need to verify yours may be 1, 2, 3, etc.)
  • Set “Poll Rate” to 500
  • Set “Port Number” to 4532
  • Click to “X” Run rigctld when program starts
  • For now, leave the rest at their default settings

You should not need any additional arguments added for rigctld. CQRLOG will start it with the rig model number – it looks like “rigctld -m 128”, (mine is -m 313 for my IC-718), and that automatically sets it up for that specific radio

ROT control tab:

  • ***To be determined at a later date

Modes tab:

  • I would leave the defaults for this Yeasu rig – (note on ICOM radios for rig control the CQRLOG FAQ says to set them all to zero, and that works – but for ICOM rigs only)

QTH profiles tab:

  • ***To be determined at a later date

Export tab:

  • I set each and every item on this page – if I am “exporting” my log, I want *everything*.

DXCluster tab:

  • Colors are purely a personal decision – the darker colors generally work better for my eyes, but I wound up selecting Red, Lime, Blue and Navy respectively
  • Set “Show only spots” to those freqs/bands you are interested in – mine currently spans from 1.8 MHz to 28 MHz
  • Set “Show country name in the DX cluster spot”
  • Set “Connect to DX cluster after program startup”

 

Fonts tab:

  • I left this at defaults, (for now)

WAZ, ITU zones tab:

  • Colors are purely a personal decision – I am currently using Red, Red, Blue, Blue, and Fuchsia, Fuchsia
  • Set “Show info” for both WAZ and ITU

 

IOTA tab:

  • I chose to set “New IOTA” to Red and QSL needed for IOTA to Blue
  • Set “Show info”

 

Membership tab:

  • ***I haven’t set this up yet – not currently a member of anything associated with this

Bandmap Tab:

  • Set “Use the same color as the spot
  • Set “Ignore DX spots with freq equals to the start of the band (21.000, 14.000 etc., usually notes)”
  • ***I will need to revisit this one later on

xplanet support tab:

  • Set “Path for the xplanet” to /usr/bin/xplanet
  • I set “‘Window size” to 340 x 340 for now, will revisit later
  • Set “Show stations from” bandmap
  • Set “Projection” to azimuthal without background
  • Set “Use this xplanet font color” my selection was “White” by default, works well.

Zip code tracking tab:

  • ***I left at default settings for now

LoTW/eQSL support tab:

  • To use this tab, you will need an account with LoTW, (gained through TrustedQSL program), and register for an account on the eQSL web site.  I have done so, but with LoTW – now waiting on a snail-mail card from ARRL telling me how to proceed.  Note that part of this is to have a digital “certificate” file on your system to prove its actually “you” and your system doing the uploads to LoTW
  • Set “Include LoTW and eQSL confirmed countries in DXCC statistic”
  • Set “Use LoTW and eQSL confirmed countries for New country or New band etc. info”
  • Set “Show info in New QSO window if station uses LoTW/eQSL
  • Set “Use this color as a background in DX cluster and band map for stations using LoTW” (I chose Money Green)
  • Set “Use this color as a background in DX cluster and band map for stations using eQSL” (I chose Sky Blue)
  • Set “Upload to eQSL also data in COMMENT field”

 

CW interface tab:

  • ***Left at defaults until I discuss this with a very experienced Elmer

fldigi/wsjt interface tab:

  • ***Left at defaults until I have time to research this one

Auto backup tab:  I consider this one to be IMPORTANT!

  • Set “Enable autobackup after program ends
  • Set “Save backup to:” using the browse button – mine worked out to be /home/dave/.config/cqrlog/database/
  • Set “Backup file” by selecting “callsign, date and time (yourcall_yyyy-mm-dd_hh-mm-ss.adi)
  • Set “Compress backup with tar.gz

External viewers tab:

  • I left this one at defaults, it will probably stay that way for now

Callbook support tab:

  • Set Callbook search to either your HamQTH account or QRZ account.  Ham QTH is free – there is a minimal annual fee for QRZ – I elected to go with HamQTH for now – entering my User name and Password for that account in this tab

RBN support tab:

  • Left “Server:” at the default telnet address and port – telnet.reversebeacon.net:7000 – for now, (but know my friend will want to change it to his favorite)
  • Set “Login:” to your own callsign
  • For now, I also set “Watch for:” to my own callsign
  • Colors being subjective, I am using White, Purple, Maroon and Red in that order from the top down, (pretty sure these are now default colors)
  • Set “Delete old information after” 180 seconds, (I’m getting older, the default 60 seconds was too fast)

 

Online log upload tab:

  • Set “Enable upload to HamQTH” (if you have an account there)
  • Set in your Username and Password for HamQTH
  • I elected to “Set this” Blue “color to show information in status upload windowI left Clublog blank – not a member
  • Set “Use this” Red “color to show information in status upload window” in case I use Clublog in future
  • Left HRDLog.net entries blank
  • Set “Use this” Purple “color to show information in status upload window” in case I use HRDLog in future

Propagation tab:

  • Set “Show propagation as image
  • I was not happy with the tiny default display, so changed “Download data from:” to http://www.hamqsl.com/solar101pic.php
  • Set “Show A, K, SSN, FOF2 etc.”
  • Set “Show calculated prediction for HF bands”
  • Set “Show calculated prediction for VHF bands if you are interested

 


All that is left is to actually DO it to test the above procedure against an FT-950 radio.

I will be counting on help from an experienced Ham who has done many years of DX, and has experience with a different logging program.  Between the two of us, we should be able to whip his FT-950 into shape with CQRLOG, and I will learn a ton about making effective *use* of it.

 


REFERENCE LINKS:

CQRLOG

Ham Radio Control Libraries

USB Serial Converter support

Linux Ham apps, install | K8WDX

CQRLOG configure <–YouTube video on a previous version of CQRLOG also by K8WDX

Ham on Linux – IC-718 Rig Control

This project got started when another Ham, (also a Linux Mint enthusiast), asked me to take a look at a package called “CQRLOG”.  I did, and after lots of research plus trial and error – have got it working, also have a growing love for CQRLOG.

I am currently running Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon (64 bit), and CQRLOG 2.0.1-1 (64 bit) on a 4 year old Toshiba laptop.

NOTE:  I will continue to update this page as I make new discoveries about CQRLOG v/s IC-718


Before we get started, lets pay attention to the rig itself.  We need to access the IC-718 initial start menus – turn the radio off, press and hold the “Set” button on the radio while turning it back on.  You should now see the menus – use the “Up | Down” buttons to navigate through the menu, and turn the main knob to change a setting on the menu.  I most strongly recommend you do *NOT* change anything, except those listed below, at this point – just use the “Up | Down” buttons to find the:

  • CIV 731  set to “of” (off).
  • CIV TRN – set to “of” (off).
  • CIV ADD – the default address should be “5E” (if it is not, there may be reason for that – but the default load of rigctld, (the rig control daemon) will expect to find this radio with an address of “5E”.
  • CIV BAUD – set to “Hi” (I don’t remember if that is default, but this works well for me).

You should now be able to turn the radio off and those settings will be remembered by your rig.

Note:  These are the settings that are currently working for me – and, following the list below, I now have rock-solid control over my rig with CQRLOG v. 2.0.1-1 (of course that applies as I write this – your mileage may vary). 🙂


Let’s tackle the software!

The first step is to assure your Linux account has access to the serial ports, (this has to be set in Mint and other Debian Linux derivatives/forks):

Even if you are using an FTDI USB-serial cable purchased for the purpose, (as I am) – you still have to be in the appropriate Linux “group”…

Added my account name to the “dialout” group via Menu | Administration | Users and groups

Click on your account, then in the right click on the groups you are currently a member of – a list will pop-up and all you have to do is put a check mark next to the “dialout” group


Why the group name “dialout”? Every file in linux has a security setting for access in terms of read/write/execute “permissions”. You are either the owner, member of a group, or “other” – the owner of most things in the system is “root”, but you should never use root as your normal user within linux to avoid accidents and security problems.  So – the next best thing is to be member of the group that has rights on the item you want to use. For instance, in this case we want to access/control the ttyUSBx port. (Probably ttyUSB0, [“zero”], but it may be 1, 2 or 3 depending upon your computer/peripherals).

Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, most of us hooked up a telephone modem, which is a serial device, so they named the group given control over serial devices “dialout”.  Know it seems a weird name today, but that is how it came about and it still is in use.  Adding your account to Group dialout will give you the desired rights/control over serial communication on Linux, including ttyUSBx (usually ttyUSB0).


Second Step – let’s download and install those “other” packages for associated software programs you may eventually want to use in conjunction with CQRLOG and get them set up to automatically get updated with system updates by enabling their PPA repositories where we can, that way they will be “ready” when you are.

Use Administration | Synaptic Package Manager to install the following:

In filter type xplanet and then select the xplanet and xplanet-images (Mark for install) go ahead and Apply (install).. Then delete the xplanet from filter box.

In left column click on Ham Radio Universe and mark the following for installation:

Chirp (if not already installed – very handy if you have a uhf/vhf radio – not applicable to CQRLOG)
FLdigi (if not already installed)
TrustedQSL (need this if you use Logbook of the World)
xdx

Go ahead and “Apply”/install the packages then close Synaptic Package Manager

Note: We skipped over wsjt – will get that later by other means rather than old package

Open a terminal – we will be installing PPA Updates one line at a time Terminal;

sudo rm -f /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ubuntu-hams-ppa-­*
# type your password when prompted

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-hams-updates/ppa
# press ENTER when prompted

sudo apt-get update
# wait for the “$” prompt to reappear

That’s it, now Linux Mint will keep all your Ham Apps up to date automatically. You can refresh updates, and all the latest updates will be installed.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kamalmostafa/hamlib
# press ENTER when prompted

sudo apt-get update
# wait for the “$” prompt to reappear

———-

Now for WSJTX: The version in the software center is way out of date, so you will want to add the PPA for this as well, If you already installed, no worry, this will update that version. Open termial, copy and paste: again one line at a time and hit enter, follow prompts.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ki7mt/wsjtx

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install wsjtx

Now you will want to install the Encoder:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ki7mt/kvasd-installer

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install kvasd-installer

TO RUN
– Open A terminal and type: kvasd-installer
– Then, select Install decoder from the menu.

If you have difficulty with WJSTx, as far as selecting the sound card, you will need to install this as well. Open Terminal:

sudo apt-get install libqt5multimediawidgets5 libqt5multimedia5-plugins
libqt5multimedia5

Note copied from K8WDX blog: Then set it up, and you should be good to go. more info on future releases can be found here: https://launchpad.net/~ki7mt I strongly suggest going to this site and reading through it, there are a couple of things to do to get the latest updates as well and info about the future of WJSTX. I just like to wait until the versions are out of the development stage before I take the plunge.

NOTE:  Most of the above are for the newer digital communication modes – something I will eventually want to get into and investigate.


Third Step – if you haven’t already done so, let’s install the latest CQRLOG package:

I’ve previously describe how to do so in the post entitled:

Ham with Linux – CQRLOG

OK, you can finally close terminal – open Update Manager, click on Refresh, then Install the new packages it found. Because you added the PPAs above, Update Manager will check and install updates to your Ham programs.


Its finally time to run CQRLOG!  (You will find it in your menu system, I recommend right-clicking on that menu item and pinning it to your panel).  When the program opens you will see the “Database Connection” window, which contains a default log file #1 entry. (You can edit the log name and add new logs later on).  For now, click on the default log to highlight it, then click “Open”.  The system “should” ask you to agree to download/install a couple of necessary databases – click Yes for each of them.  (It will check for updates each time you open the program after we get it configured).  The Database Connection window will close and the “New QSO” window will open.

Configuring CQRLOG

In New QSO click on File | Preferences which will open the Preferences window to start your configuration of CQRLOG.  Down the left side of Preferences is a vertical column of tabs which lead to pages of settings.  I won’t cover all of them but here are my current recommendations for some of the more important stuff – you will have to play with them to suit your own desires – but pay particular attention to the TRX control stuff below:

Program tab:

  • Select “Show statistics in” MHz
  • Select “Check for newer version of dxcc tables after program startup”
  • Select “Check for newer version of qsl managers database after program startup”
  • Select “Show distance in miles”
  • Select “get UTC time from computer time
  • Set “Grayline” to -1.25 (this setting worked for me on 05/24/2016)

Station tab:

  • Set “Call” to your FCC approved Call Sign
  • Set “Name” normally use your first name but…
  • Set “QTH” to your home area, (i.e. CA-USA, or San Diego County, USA)
  • Set “Loc” to your Grid Square Locator (Hint – go here and type in your zip code if unsure) – This is a critical entry for the system to work correctly, make certain you have it right.

New QSO tab: (These are in addition to the defaults – some may now be new defaults in the latest version)

  • For now, I left the “Default values” at the top alone, including “Comment for QSO”
  • Also left “Enable auto mark QSO QSL_S field” as marked but with no value
  • Set “Use spacebar to move between fields”
  • Set “Skip over mode and frequency when radio is connected”
  • Set “Enable autosearch on HamQTH.com/QRZ.com”
  • Set “If ‘QSL via’ field contains other than a call sign, move to ‘Comment to QSO’ field”
  • Set “Show recent QSO records for last” to 7 days (rather than 5)
  • Set “In previous QSO list show QSO with call/p, call/m, W6/call etc.”
  • Set “Always overwrite info from previous QSO with callbook data”
  • Set “Always overwrite only CQ, ITU zones, County and US state”
  • Set “Capitalise first letter in QTH field (yeah I know how to spell capitalize, but they are from Europe).

Visible Columns tab:

  • Set “Date”
  • Set “Time on”
  • Set “CallSign” and “IOTA”
  • Set “Mode”
  • Set “Freq” and “QSL sent date”
  • Set “RST sent”
  • Set “RST Received” and DXCC
  • Set “Name” and “Comment to QSO”
  • Set “QTH” and “WAZ”
  • Set “QSL sent”
  • Set “QSL received”, “State”, and “Received QSL, LoTW, eQSL”
  • Set “Country Name”

Bands tab:

  • Set each band you plan to use your rig on – for now I skipped, (left unselected), 136 kHz, 472 kHz then 5 MHz and everything 50 MHz or above.  Will revisit this tab as I gain more experience with my Amateur Extra license

TRX control tab:

  • Set “Path to rigctl binary” to /usr/bin/rigctld
  • Set “Radio one Desc.” to IC-718
  • Set “Host” to localhost
  • Set “Rig Model” to 313 ICOM IC-718 (using the drop-down menu)
  • Set “Device” to /dev/ttyUSB0 (that last character is a zero – need to verify yours may be 1, 2, 3, etc.)
  • Set “Poll Rate” to 500
  • Set “Port Number” to 4532
  • Click to “X” Run rigctld when program starts  <– this is *very* important for rig control
  • For now, leave the rest at their default settings

You should not need any additional arguments added for rigctld. CQRLOG will start it with the rig model number, (mine is -m 313), and that automatically sets it up for that specific radio

ROT control tab:

  • ***To be determined at a later date

Modes tab:

  • I would have left the defaults for a rig other than ICOM – (note on ICOM radios for rig control the CQRLOG FAQ says to set them all to zero – my IC-718 will not accept Bandwidth changes via CAT cable)

QTH profiles tab:

  • ***To be determined at a later date

Export tab:

  • I set each and every item on this page – if I am “exporting” my log, I want *everything*.

DXCluster tab:

  • Colors are purely a personal decision – the darker colors generally work better for my eyes, but I wound up selecting Red, Lime, Blue and Navy respectively
  • Set “Show only spots” to those freqs/bands you are interested in – mine currently spans from 1.8 MHz to 28 MHz
  • Set “Show country name in the DX cluster spot”
  • Set “Connect to DX cluster after program startup”

Fonts tab:

  • I left this at defaults, (for now)

WAZ, ITU zones tab:

  • Colors are purely a personal decision – I am currently using Red, Red, Blue, Blue, and Fuchsia, Fuchsia
  • Set “Show info” for both WAZ and ITU

IOTA tab:

  • I chose to set “New IOTA” to Red and QSL needed for IOTA to Blue
  • Set “Show info”

Membership tab:

  • ***I haven’t set this up yet as I haven’t joined anything associated with this tab

Bandmap Tab:

  • Set “Use the same color as the spot
  • Set “Ignore DX spots with freq equals to the start of the band (21.000, 14.000 etc., usually notes)”
  • ***I will need to revisit this one later on

xplanet support tab:

  • Set “Path for the xplanet” to /usr/bin/xplanet
  • I set “‘Window size” to 340 x 340 for now
  • Set “Show stations from” bandmap
  • Set “Projection” to azimuthal without background
  • Set “Show xplanet after program startup”
  • Set “Close xplanet with CQRLOG”
  • Set “Use this xplanet font color” my selection was “White” by default, works well.

Zip code tracking tab:

  • ***I left at default settings for now – will revisit this tab later

LoTW/eQSL support tab:

  • To use this tab, you will need an account with LoTW, (gained through TrustedQSL program), and register for an account on the eQSL web site.  I have done so, but with LoTW – now waiting on a snail-mail card from ARRL telling me how to proceed.  Note that part of this is to have a digital “certificate” file on your system to prove its actually “you” and your system doing the uploads to LoTW
  • Set “Include LoTW and eQSL confirmed countries in DXCC statistic”
  • Set “Use LoTW and eQSL confirmed countries for New country or New band etc. info”
  • Set “Show info in New QSO window if station uses LoTW/eQSL
  • Set “Use this color as a background in DX cluster and band map for stations using LoTW” (I chose Money Green)
  • Set “Use this color as a background in DX cluster and band map for stations using eQSL” (I chose Sky Blue)
  • Set “Upload to eQSL also data in COMMENT field”

CW interface tab:

  • ***Left at defaults until I discuss this with a very experienced Elmer

fldigi/wsjt interface tab:

  • ***Left at defaults until I have time to research this one

Auto backup tab:  I consider this one to be IMPORTANT!

  • Set “Enable autobackup after program ends
  • Set “Save backup to:” using the browse button – mine worked out to be /home/dave/.config/cqrlog/database/
  • Set “Backup file” by selecting “callsign, date and time (yourcall_yyyy-mm-dd_hh-mm-ss.adi)
  • Set “Compress backup with tar.gz

External viewers tab:

  • I left this one at defaults, it will probably stay that way for now

Callbook support tab:

  • Set Callbook search to either your HamQTH account or QRZ account.  Ham QTH is free – there is a minimal annual fee for QRZ – I elected to go with HamQTH for now – entering my User name and Password for that account in this tab

RBN support tab:

  • Left “Server:” at the default telnet address and port – telnet.reversebeacon.net:7000 – for now, (but know my friend will want to change it to his favorite)
  • Set “Login:” to your own callsign
  • For now, I also set “Watch for:” to my own callsign
  • Colors being subjective, I chose White, Purple, Maroon and Red in that order from the top down, (I believe these may now be the default colors)
  • Set “Delete old information after” 180 seconds, (I’m getting older, the default 60 seconds was too fast)

Online log upload tab:

  • Set “Enable upload to HamQTH” (if you have an account there)
  • Set in your Username and Password for HamQTH
  • I elected to “Set this” Blue “color to show information in status upload windowI left Clublog blank – not a member
  • Set “Use this” Red “color to show information in status upload window” in case I use Clublog in future
  • Left HRDLog.net entries blank
  • Set “Use this” Purple “color to show information in status upload window” in case I use HRDLog in future

Propagation tab:

  • Set “Show propagation as image
  • I was not happy with the tiny default display, so changed “Download data from:” to http://www.hamqsl.com/solar101pic.php
  • Set “Show A, K, SSN, FOF2 etc.”
  • Set “Show calculated prediction for HF bands”
  • Set “Show calculated prediction for VHF bands” if you are interested

I spent over a week, frustrated with a situation where the TRX control window would lose communication with the rig after about 20 seconds – after which I would be forced to refresh the rigctld process. It would regain comms only to fail again.  In that week I tried varying each and every setting on both the rig’s initial setup menu and in the preferences – but kept having this feeling I was missing something obvious.  Finally determined some other (unknown) process was periodically interfering with comms on device ttyUSB0, so I simply did a completely fresh install of Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon, then ran through the procedures above. CQRLOG has been running quite well and controlling our IC-718 rig very happily ever since.

 

I will be counting on help from an experienced Ham who has done many years of DX, then will revisit the Log specific stuff, including LoTW/QSL settings, etc.  Have a lot to learn about that arena myself.


REFERENCE LINKS:

CQRLOG

Ham Radio Control Libraries

USB Serial Converter support

Linux Ham apps, install | K8WDX

CQRLOG configure <–YouTube video on a previous version of CQRLOG also by K8WDX

Ham with Linux – TeamViewer

OK, so I am an admitted lazy old bum that spends entirely too much time setting on his comfortable couch with a notebook computer handy, an FT-60 handheld radio connected to a J-Pole antenna next to him, TV remote, radio, snacks, refreshments, etc. Ayup, the “life of Riley” around the old Pondee and life is good…

slothfulness, noun used to describe “slothful”, meaning “sluggardly; indolent; lazy”.

We have several computers, (including Heidi’s notebook [Linux], my Notebook [Linux & Windows 10], the old Toshiba laptop back in the shack [Linux]) – as we have had for many years, and naturally all are connected via our WiFi/LAN, along with a somewhat embarrassing number of tablets and other devices. <blush>  (Hey, I am an ancient computer/device geek who never quit that part).

Last year, I ran across a “remote control” software package, which is free for home use, called TeamViewer described as:

Remote support, remote access, and online meeting software that the world relies on – 1 billion installations and 20+ million devices online at any time.

Noting they had versions available for virtually every operating system, I decided to give it a workout between Windows to Linux, and Linux to Linux, etc. – and as a result, am still using it today.  (Haven’t tried it on iOS, Android, etc., yet – but that is probably going to happen sooner or later).

I’ve been fully retired for a very long time now, so I wasn’t interested in the corporate aspect/usage, nor even going out across the Internet to remote control a computer – BUT, being a lazy old dinosaur, thought I might be able to make use of it to save having to leave my couch to go back to the shack and check for updates, or fix something on Heidi’s computer (ALL the way over on our Love seat).

Darned if it didn’t work, and work very well!  The user interface is a bit cumbersome at first, but after running it for about a year it does everything they advertise, and since I’m only using it at home – it is still FREE!  They are up to version 11 as this is being written, and there have been updates in this past year, but we have simply never had a problem with it.

Two days ago, it was used to install/configure/test CQRLOG on that old computer in our ham shack from our couch – reflecting upon that inspired me to write this post.  TeamViewer just works for us!

Disclaimer:  Being fully retired for well over 10 years, I am no longer any kind of “computer professional” nor otherwise qualified to even talk about what is going on “today” with computers and software.  It takes far too much work to stay on top of technology, and more effort than this old retiree is going to be willing to spend.  TeamViewer works well for our purposes, your own mileage may vary.  I can, however, tell ya what works for me, and I happen to like TeamViewer. 🙂

Over my working years, operating remote desktop or server control software, (especially with cross-platform support), was a very important aspect of my business, especially from the early 90’s to about 2004. At one point or another, I’ve used many, many different “brands” – this product has to be near the top for ease of use. <two thumbs up>

Ham with Linux – CQRLOG

You might want to skip this one if you have no interest in Linux v/s Ham Radio.  It is no secret that yours truly is somewhat of a Linux enthusiast. “TUX” is the name given to the little penguin which became a symbol for Linux long ago, and you are currently reading this on InTUX 🙂 … These days, Heidi and I like Linux Mint, using Cinnamon for the user interface on our modern notebook computers, and I have Mate running on a 10+ year old Toshiba laptop in our shack. All are on version 17.3 as I type, but will soon be testing the upcoming version 18…

Earlier this week, one of our friends, also a member of ARCEC, asked me to take a look at a Ham package called CQRLOG – took a brief scan of what was said on eHam.net about it and I was off to the races.

“CQRLOG is an advanced ham radio logger based on MySQL database. Provides radio control based on hamlib libraries (currently support of 140+ radio types and models), DX cluster connection, online callbook, a grayliner, internal QSL manager database support and a most accurate country resolution algorithm based on country tables developed by OK1RR. CQRLOG is intended for daily general logging of HF, CW & SSB contacts and strongly focused on easy operation and maintenance.”

One of the lessons learned, back in the ’90s, was to expect poor documentation on just about any/all open-source projects.  Cutting my teeth on “Slackware” around version 3, that was quite a source of frustration back then.  However, that arena has definitely shown improvement by leaps and bounds as time has moved forward.  Unfortunately, documentation continues to lag development on most projects I’ve seen – its simply not as bad as it once was.

The first pass at attempted installation was using Linux Mint’s “Software Manager” to download and install the package that was on their (Mint’s) package server at that time.  Without going into details, that was not a good user experience, resulting in the package alarming – telling of missing dependencies with no effort on its part to install several those dependent packages, including MySQL Server and Client as an example.  In my opinion, that package should not have been available on their server.  Being a long-time command line user, I opened a terminal session and proceeded to clean everything back up.  It was then time to see if there was a PPA repository available for CQRLOG and I discovered there was.  There is a lot more to this story, but seeing your eyes glaze 😀 , (or is that my imagination?), in the end I discovered a good installation could be had with a single command in terminal mode:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ok2cqr/ppa;sudo apt-get update;sudo apt-get install cqrlog

That command, (described here for version 2.0.1-1), will first, add the ppa repository to your linux system’s list of authorized spots to check for updates, then update the system list itself, and finally install the latest version found in that repository.  As I type, that is version 2.0.1 which has been fixed and does a complete install of CQRLOG and all of the packages necessary to run it.  After a bit of a struggle, including cleaning up after those same previous abortive attempts at installation earlier described, CQRLOG has been running on the aforementioned friend’s Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.3 computer.  I have had it running now for well over 24 hours on that very old laptop in our shack, without a single glitch or problem.  Really looking forward to a deeper look at its capabilities, features, and nuances.

Not mentioned in the brief description of CQRLOG above is the capability to control your ham radio from the program via a CAT cable between the computer and radio. I will be attempting to explore that capability soon, (cable is on the way from another Ham operator’s eBay Store – BlueMax49ers – one whom I’ve had excellent results with in the past, solely as a customer/consumer).

More on that aspect later on….

Guess I really should add some form of disclaimer here – the above post describes my personal experience, from my own viewpoint, with installing CQRLOG on multiple Linux Mint computers this past week – YOUR mileage may vary. 🙂


Update:  I have CQRLOG running under Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon back in our Shack and controlling our HF radio like a big dog.  VERY happy with it.  Spent a week or 10 days trying to chase down a problem, totally unrelated to Linux/CQRLOG, that was interfering with CAT on my system. When I blew everything away and went with a fresh install – it just worked!

Our Tiny Tri-bander HT Is Back In Service…

Back in early 2004, we took a chance and purchased a used ICOM IC-T90A from a Ham Operator on eBay. When it arrived, I was elated to find it worked like a charm – once we figured out how to operate it. Back then, had to take a drive to Ham Radio Outlet and picked up a wallet sized “Nifty card” for it and was soon able to figure out how to program it from the tiny little touch pad. It served as my first Ham radio as a licensed operator, and worked about as well as a handheld radio could in those days.

ICOM IC-T90A, circa 2004, tri-band handheld radio. About the size of an old pack of cigarettes.

ICOM IC-T90A, circa 2004, tri-band handheld radio. About the size of an old pack of cigarettes.

Over the last six months, we’ve even located the old little case containing the accessories bought for it some 10-12 years ago, located a provider for new batteries on Amazon.com, and upgraded the little antenna to a Diamond SRH77CA for 2m and 70cm operation. (Don’t currently use 6m, but if I do, will revert to the old antenna with extension).

What I couldn’t seem to do, is figure out how to manually program the odd offset for the ARCEC 2m repeater – this despite reading a downloaded copy of the manual, and doing many a search on google.  I now know that you simply set it up for “Dup -“, (Duplex with negative offset), and manually set the offset to 0.945000 instead of the typical 0.600000). DOH!

Have never bothered with trying to program that old radio with a computer and cable before, but having acquired the CS-T90A software plus the appropriate FTDI USB Programming Cable Icom IC-T70A IC-T70E IC-T90 IC-T90A IC-T90E OPC-478 from eBay,  (that link is to another Ham operator’s eBay Store – BlueMax49ers – one whom I’ve had excellent results with in the past, solely as a customer/consumer), – sat down yesterday to give it a shot, and its now fully in service for our local area.

Between the calling frequencies, several other simplex frequencies, and over 50 local 2m and 70cm repeaters – you can see why hand-programming is a bit of a challenge in our area – far, far easier to do it via a full keyboard and mouse than poking at the keypad.  This has proven true of all our radios – be they ICOM, Yeasu, Baofeng, or whatever.  In all, we have purchased about 6 or 7 of those FTDI USB cables from that same seller, (who is also a Ham), and have never had a problem. (He ships right away too!)

Up to this point, have only had to use radio-specific software to program our old IC-V8000, (CS V-8000 software), and this old handheld.  For everything else I’ve used the free, open-source, CHIRP software from DanPlanet.com with great success.  That software covers a tremendous number of Ham radios and works sweet IF you have a proper programming cable.

Life is good!

Update: Upon further testing, discovered while listening to QSO’s on the ARCEC 2m repeater that the receiver was cutting out every 5 seconds for about 1 second.  Set it aside until I found time to look into the problem.  Sure enough, some time later remembered something about both the ICOM IC-V8000 and IC-T90A from that time frame, (circa 2004), about the Weather Alert setting being a problem.  Pressed and held the “Set” button to access the settings that are infrequently changed – worked down through the list and discovered somehow Wx Alt had been enabled.  Turned it off and problem went away. 🙂

Setting up our old F-250 for HF mobile ops

I have installed a Yeasu FT-2900R 2m portable radio in both Heidi’s old Hyundai and my old F-250 pickup. Its a great “bang for the buck” radio with 5, 10, 30 & 75 Watts of output available and a terrific receiver. Around where we live, we keep them at 5 watts and have no problem reaching local repeaters from any of the places we routinely go.

There will be times when we will be joining other members of the Amateur Radio Club of El Cajon up in the mountains or out on Fiesta Island to operate our various radios while set up at or very near our vehicles.  We will want to take along an HF Radio, batteries, maybe a folding solar panel, and most certainly need the capability to raise an HF antenna.  Talking to a few of the very experienced Hams in our club, I decided it would be smart to have the ability to attach an antenna mast to our truck in a very secure manner – and the best way seemed to be via that 2″ square trailer hitch receiver on the rear of it.  My preparations are a kind of combination of what the other folks are doing.

This is what we came up with to handle a mobile HF radio mast for our antennas:

Flagpole to Go Hitch Mount for large diameter flag pole - plus receiver extension to permit opening tailgate.

Flagpole to Go Hitch Mount for large diameter flag pole – plus receiver extension with step to permit opening tailgate.

 

Eureka, it works!

Eureka, it works!

 

Harbor Freight flag pole with 2.5" diameter base fits just fine.

Harbor Freight flag pole with 2.5″ diameter base fits just fine.

 

Harbor Freight Flag Pole extended to 20' - I plan to use a PVC "extension" double-pinned to top section.

Harbor Freight Flag Pole extended to 20′ – I plan to use a PVC “extension” double-pinned to top section.

We also have a 33′ MFJ-1910 fiberglass push-up pole that can be used for greater height. I will be adding a 4′ length of PVC with cap on bottom to protect the fiberglass from damage. (A good idea already in use by another experienced Ham).

When not in use, the masts/flagpoles will be collapsed and stowed in the locking toolbox, along with the Flagpole To Go hitch mount and our regular trailer hitch/ball.  We will probably just leave the receiver extension with step back there to ease getting in/out of the truck bed with the tailgate closed.

Edited: Several folks have asked where I got that hitch mount – it was via Amazon.com – don’t know how long this link will be good but here ya go:

Flagpole To Go Hitch Mount For Large Diameter Portable Flagpole

Update: Since I wrote this post, I see they have increased the price on Amazon by $12. 🙁

That extension, and another model without the step, can easily be found at your local Harbor Tool & Freight store – picked ours up with a 25% coupon so the total price for it was about $21 – good hunting! -dave

The Yeasu FT-817 for Portable Ops

After a ton of thought, I purchased a used Yeasu FT-817 radio on 2/2/2016 from another Ham and good friend. It required a minor repair as the power receptacle was damaged, but I was able to get the replacement part from Yeasu parts and service – then solder in the new receptacle to the circuit board and get it into operation.

Yeasu FT-817 and LDG Z-817

Yeasu FT-817 and LDG Z-817

The radio came with a LDG Z-817 Auto-tuner, new microphone, manuals and Nifty guide – connector cables and several handy peripheral connectors. Missing were the wall wart charger, rubber ducky antenna and it would need new internal batteries plus an external battery for extended field operations, but everything I needed was available from Amazon, Ham Radio Outlet and eBay to have a broad band, “do most everything” QRP radio for field operations of most any kind.  Yeasu has introduced a few upgrades to this venerable radio – and many consider them the “Ultimate” survival/preparedness/field radio.  Shoot – I just wanted it to have fun with! 😀

I’m probably never going to be a “contest fanatic” – shoot, that is more like work and I want to simply enjoy talking to folks in far away places in a bit more comfortable way than any kind of competition.  I do, however, dearly enjoy a challenge – and believe operating at low-power, (QRP operation), is going to be my “niche” for HF radio – particularly via CW, (Morse Code) – and that is where I’ll eventually be able to find the greatest satisfaction out of this fun hobby.  That doesn’t mean I won’t eventually buy a “full gallon” linear and operate at high power with a huge antenna array like I did back in my days as Chief MARS Operator on a few ships – but the thought of taking this little radio up in the mountains with some kind of ultra-light wire antenna and using it to talk to folks in other states/countries on just 5 watts, and battery power, just appeals to my personal sense of “right”.  For now, and as long as my health holds up, pretty sure I’ll continue to work toward that end.  Have already taken a few steps in that direction. 😉

Heidi and I love the mountains and the forest regardless. Put me there, or somewhere on a lake doing some fishing and I feel closer to my maker every time.  We don’t have to have a radio to go up there, but it sure seems a great excuse to get up and go – we will take our Shepherd with us of course.  Will see if I can’t incorporate some phase of outdoor cooking with each run.  Life is good and the future is bright!

Edited:
Some time after writing the above, I ordered a FTDI USB Programming Cable Yaesu CAT FT-100 FT-100D FT-817 FT-817ND CT-62, (that link is to another Ham operator’s eBay Store – BlueMax49ers – one whom I’ve had excellent results with in the past, solely as a customer/consumer). Since the subject radio also covers the 2m and 70cm bands, I used the free, open-source, CHIRP software from DanPlanet.com to program its memories with all of the local UHF and VHF repeater settings, plus the simplex calling frequencies, etc., for each band. That FTDI USB cable worked like a charm.

Our Roll-up J-Pole Antennas

This one is picture intensive, I apologize if this page takes longer to load.

Last Christmas, several members of our Ham radio club were setting up over at Sprout’s Market in Santee, CA. to give customer’s children an opportunity to talk to Santa on a Ham radio. While Heidi and I couldn’t directly support the event, our eldest granddaughter went over to help steer the kids toward Santa’s Elf who had a portable radio set up. While getting ready, the “Elf” was having trouble communicating with the ARCEC 2m repeater – but our friends from Crest came to the rescue. They provided a Roll-up J-Pole Antenna to use in place of his mobile antenna and all problems went away. With the new antenna simply tied up next to a window – still inside, he was literally BOOMING into the repeater and for two days the event was a tremendous success and one Heidi and I fully enjoyed monitoring!

Quite naturally, I *HAD* to find out more about that Roll-up J-pole antenna. They can serve a great purpose as an emergency antenna for portable operation, you can toss a line over a branch and draw them up to a decent height out in the field, and even use one indoors!  Speaking to our friends off-line, I found that theirs were/are constructed from 450 Ohm ladder lead, rather than the 300 ohm stuff most folks use for this purpose.  Nothing wrong with the 300 ohm homebrews, but my mind kept going to that BOOMING signal and determined I would build two of them like our friends for Heidi and I.

Generally, I followed this design found  on hamuniverse.com:

The 450 OHM Ladder Line Slim Jim Antenna

By KE4NU – Alan Wilson, Victor, MT

However, followed some important recommendations by our friends to avoid the most likely points of failure, and added a couple of my own to gain even more durability.  I acquired our 450 ohm ladder line from the good folks at palmettoantennas.com via an on-line purchase and received excellent service. (They are also a great source for other Ham-related wire as I soon found out).

Hopefully this series of pictures will help if you want to try this:

Started by stripping wire at one end, then doing the same at the other end looking for a total of 58"

Started by stripping wire at one end, then doing the same at the other end looking for a total length of 58″

 

Slight modification - I left a tab sticking out that will have a hole for hanging the antenna

Slight modification – I left a tab sticking out that will have a hole for hanging the antenna

 

From the other end, will need to strip wire centered 4" from the end to provide for tunining/attaching coax

From the other end, will need to strip wire centered 4″ from the end to provide for tuning/attaching coax

 

I simply whittled the insulation off with a very sharp knife. This is a bit tedious.

I simply whittled the insulation off with a very sharp knife. This is a bit tedious.

 

Wires tinned, then soldered together at top

Wires tinned, then soldered together at top

 

More tinning and soldering

More tinning and soldering

 

19" up from bottom, cut a 1" gap on one side of the wire - that side will be for the coax shielding to be connected to

19″ up from bottom, cut a 1″ gap on one side of the wire – that side will be for the coax shielding to be connected to

 

After stripping off insulation, pushed down the sheilding mesh then used a large wooden pick to separate the wire - then worked the center conductor through that gap.

After stripping off coax insulation, pushed down the shielding mesh then used a large wooden pick to separate the wire – then worked the center conductor through that gap.

 

Twisted the sheilding, then stripped inner core back about 3/4"

Twisted the shielding, then stripped inner core back about 3/4″

 

Pre-positioned 1/4" shrink tubing around coax to provide strength - and 3/4" shrink-tubing that will eventually cover the connection. Note wires just twisted to provide for tuning by moving connections up/down.

Pre-positioned 1/4″ shrink tubing around coax to provide strength – and 3/4″ shrink-tubing that will eventually cover the connection. Note wires just twisted to provide for tuning by moving connections up/down.

 

After tuning, soldered for permanent connection.

After tuning, soldered for permanent connection.

 

Used heat gun to shrink tubing around coax.

Used heat gun to shrink tubing around coax.

 

Used a hot glue gun to bond coax to ladder line, (as recommended by our Elmers).

Used a hot glue gun to bond coax to ladder line, (as recommended by our Elmers).

 

Finished up with shrink tube covering entire area at the top - should be a lot more durable this way.

Finished up with shrink tube covering entire area at the top – should be a lot more durable this way.

 

Probably unnecessary, but put a bit of 3/4" shrink tubing over gap to add just a little extra strength.

Probably unnecessary, but put a bit of 3/4″ shrink tubing over gap to add just a little extra strength.

 

This is the bottom where the coax is now bonded to the ladder line - It really doesn't look bad at all.

This is the bottom where the coax is now bonded to the ladder line – It really doesn’t look bad at all.

…and that is it.  As I said earlier, I built two of these. One is rolled up, and placed in Heidi’s Go Bag – the other is currently hanging on the wall in our ham shack.  Any time there is a thunder/lightning storm coming through our area, I physically disconnect all of our antennas and connect the roll-up j-pole to our “base” two meter radio, where I can continue to monitor the local repeater and talk on it without fear of lightning.

 

The Copper Cactus Super J-Pole Antenna

After I had passed the General Ham Exam, then the next month the Amateur Extra Exam, and Heidi had passed her Technician Exam, it was time to actually use our new radio privileges. I had previously purchased a couple of, relatively inexpensive, Baofeng handheld radios and learned to program then, primarily with the CHIRP program, (which is another story). Those little HTs work quite well when out and about, walking, etc., however our own security camera system I had installed some time ago interfered with reception in our living room.

By this time, we were enjoying checking in on the our club’s “Doughnut Net” each Monday evening at 7 PM, but it was kind of cramped for both of us to cram into the little “Ham Shack” to do so – and I determined we needed to put up another 2 meter antenna, running the coax into our living room, so we could enjoy UHF and VHF operation from the relative comfort of our couch and/or love seat.

I spoke to our friends, (the Amateur Extra’s who live up in the community of Crest, CA), and they both suggested a Copper Cactus Super J-Pole, which is what they use – not only that, but if we would come on up, they would help us build it! (Offer you can’t refuse?) After a lot of experimentation with various j-pole designs, they homed in on one that was based on 3/4″ copper tubing. Most are constructed from 1/2″ tubing, but theirs seemed to be more wide-banded and worked very efficiently.  I had seen theirs on previous visits and was very intrigued, not only with the design – but how the heck to put it together?

Our friends already had most of the materials, and as they had previously built about 10 of these – *all* of the equipment and know-how.  All 4 of us gathered in their garage and it was a fascinating experience!  Each of us had a hand in the soldering and construction. When we returned home I couldn’t wait to get it mounted.  Took down an old Archer vertical antenna I had cut down for 10 meter operation over 10 years ago – and put the j-pole up in its place on the previously installed chimney mount, running new coax into our living room.

Tuning is accomplished on this one by simply moving the feed point. Ours is a flat match for both UHF and VHF. The looped co-ax serves as an "air-core balun".

Tuning is accomplished on this one by simply moving the feed point. Ours is a flat match for both UHF and VHF. The looped co-ax serves as an “air-core balun”.

 

The copper cactus design we constructed is a dual band antenna – works for both 2 meter and 440 MHz – that copper loop serves as a kind of coupler/isolator between the two sections of vertical antenna.

 

Installing a rather tall antenna by yourself is challenging, fortunately I have very strong hands, even at this age.

Installing a rather tall antenna by yourself is challenging, fortunately I have very strong hands, even at this age.

 

The copper will darken and weather over time, so it will not be quite as "visible".

The copper will darken and weather over time, so it will not be quite as “visible”.

Our home is South-facing, so the lion’s share of our solar panels are on that side of the roof.  Had to be very careful up there not to slip and damage anything inadvertently. 😉 The end result of our day’s endeavors were nothing short of excellent. We can literally use any repeater in the area we wish to.  Generally we are found on the ARCEC 2m repeater though.  Its kind of like “home” for us these days.

Initially, I used an adapter cable and simply plugged it into one of the little Baofeng HTs, but you get what you pay for, and putting a stronger antenna to them opens up that receiver to interference from any strong signal nearby.  In April, 2016, I replaced the Baofeng with a little Yeasu FT-60R which has a much better receiver and the ability to protect itself and most of the interference immediately went away.  Life is good!